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According to Merriam-Webster, nutrition is the act of being nourished, “the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances.”
Anything holistic is based on the principle of holism: parts of a whole are interconnected. When it comes to health, holistic typically refers to the belief that you need to look at the whole, interconnected person.
So one way to define holistic nutrition is the process of taking food into the body and absorbing the nutrients in those foods based on the principle that everything is connected in some way.
Holistic nutrition requires a whole-life approach—when and where you eat, where your food comes from, and what your food ate. Holistic nutrition can also include a specific cultural philosophy—like Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine—or a specific diet—such as ancestral foods, raw foods, cleansing, vegetarianism, or anti-inflammatory, for example. What’s important to remember is that holistic nutrition is individual. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and lifestyle needs that require different approaches.
Which course is right for you? Your admissions advisor will help you develop the best path for your education and opportunities to earn a wide range of accredited, nationally recognized credentials, including your:
Graduates and students from our Holistic Nutrition programs are often featured on our blog. We also share a ton of holistic health knowledge as well. Come check it out!
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At American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS), we believe that each health and wellness modality—including holistic nutrition—should be focused on the individual.
But, there are some general principles of holistic nutrition that we think apply to everyone. Focus on:
You may see the terms “nutrition” and “holistic nutrition” used interchangeably on the web. But, in our online courses, we’re quite focused on the holistic perspective. Unlike mainstream nutrition courses that typically only focus on food topics like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, holistic nutrition emphasizes the synergy between food fundamentals and the holistic triad—mind, body, spirit.
Learn more about a popular holistic nutrition tool—juicing—in this free eBook, Juicing 101
Some of the most common questions we get asked about holistic nutrition at ACHS are:
While there are many opinions and approaches to creating a healthy lifestyle plan with food, here are a few key resources to help explain general answers if you’re wondering about any of the questions above.
We suggest starting off with our Master Lecture Webinar, Thriving Through the Ages, hosted by Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition graduate Shelly Cobb. You’ll learn how you can have fun, exercise, and eat right without spending a bundle.
Holistic nutritionists and holistic nutrition consultants are educators who empower their clients to make optimal decides for daily health. An emphasis on educating and empowering distinguishes the holistic approach. It’s about inspiring clients to choose weird fruits rather than chocolate bars (or choosing organic dark chocolate rather than a Hershey Bar). It’s not about imposing one-size-fits-all rules on clients or taking the joy out of eating.
In addition to client interviews, there are several tools a holistic nutritionist may use to help a client get on track. Remember, holistic nutrition is focused on holism—the whole person—and food choices are just one tool in a lifestyle plan for health and wellness.
A holistic nutritionist may also include exercise, hobbies, social activities (dancing!), books, and DVDs, among other tools. The goal is for the client to learn what works for him or her and to develop healthy habits that he or she can carry forward long after the educational sessions.
A session with a holistic nutrition coach (or consultant, according to state law—see the section “What is the difference between a holistic nutrition coach, consultant / nutritionist, and a dietician?” below) should focus on diet and nutrition as part of therapeutic lifestyle changes. The food we eat is the fuel for our bodies and brains, and a session should focus on your optimum fuel to sustain a long and happy life.
While a holistic nutrition coach may talk with you about ways to supplement your diet, the focus should be on whole foods. While supplements can be a necessary part of a wellness regime, they are supplements, and should not be used to replace a healthy diet. Even the most expensive dietary supplements cannot substitute for poor food choices.
As part of your session, your consultant or coach may use and/or recommend a combination of the following:
To achieve these session benchmarks, your consultant or coach will likely ask you a lot of questions. These can range in complexity and may take some reflection, but the more complete and forthright you can be, the better. Questions may include a variation of the following (among others!):
Based on your responses (and likely the results of your food journal) your holistic nutrition consultant or coach will make some preliminary recommendations for how to augment your diet. For example, sometimes prolonged stress can benefit from the addition of B vitamins; similarly, magnesium can help with sleep trouble … as can getting an accurate picture of how much caffeine you actually consume in a day!
There are many options out there for you to study nutrition. The National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP) is an excellent resource when researching nutrition schools. This organization requires its approved holistic nutrition education programs to meet high academic standards.
You can view NANP’s approved schools here.
Current ACHS programs approved by NANP include:
While you research programs, keep in mind that choosing a school and holistic nutrition program is ultimately a personal decision. Ask yourself, do you want to study online or in person? Do you want to work at your own pace? Do you value interaction with a live professor? Do you want to attend an accredited school? Ultimately, your choice depends on your goals and the type of educational experience that works for you.
Completing a course, certificate, or degree in holistic nutrition is not licensure. While a holistic nutrition program will provide a solid background in holistic nutrition principles—including how to gather and assess nutrition information and how to develop customized suggestions for clients and communities—there may be additional requirements to practice in your state.
If you plan to pursue a career in holistic nutrition or dietetics, you should always with an attorney in your state and/or the appropriate state board (such as the Oregon Licensing Office – Board of Licensed Dieticians) to ensure your credentials will allow you to achieve your professional goals.
Many states have laws that regulate the practice of dietetics and nutrition services. Within some of the states with licensure requirements, it is possible to provide nutrition-related services without a license if the service provider stays within the parameters of the law and its exceptions. In some states, it is a violation of state law to practice “dietetics” without a license; while in other states, it is illegal only if an unlicensed practitioner calls him/herself a “dietitian” or “nutritionist.”
The nutrition-related services allowed or prohibited in your state must be determined by careful review of the language of your state’s law.
It’s a lot to think about! So, if you’re on the fence at all about how to proceed, these resources may help clarify whether or not your passion for nutrition is also the right professional path for you:
A holistic nutrition consultant or coach is unlicensed and may have received their training at an accredited or an unaccredited school (more on this below!).
As explained in the above section, some states require licensure to offer nutrition services to clients; some do not. You’ll definitely want to know the laws for your state before you enroll in a program.
Also, while the terms “nutritionist” and “dietician” may be used interchangeably, they are related but not the same thing. Again the law comes into play. According to nutritionED.org:
The biggest difference between dietitians and nutritionists lies in the legal restrictions that each title carries. Only nutritionists that become registered with Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) may legally declare themselves as dietitians or more precisely, registered dietitians (RDs). […] Some states may require nutritionists to obtain an occupational license from a Board of Nutrition, while other states allow individuals to practice as nutritionists without any previous education, training or work experience.
NANP offers two levels of recognition for holistic nutritionists: Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® and Certified Nutrition Professional.
Becoming Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition shows clients and potential employers that you have achieved the highest level of knowledge and professional recognition in holistic nutrition. To achieve this recognition, you must successfully meet the board exam’s eligibility requirements and sit and pass the exam. Requirements include:
Becoming a Certified Nutrition Professional adds an additional level of certification. To qualify, you must meet:
Learn more about NANP certification on their website here.
There are many different reasons to pursue holistic nutrition education. Some people are looking to solve a personal health challenge. Some people want to establish community education programs. While other people want to develop an online presence and serve clients worldwide.
But, if you don’t yet know what your long-term goals are, not to worry. There are several paths that may be worth your consideration:
As our online lives continue to grow and expand, there are more opportunities than ever to study online.
You may wonder: how can I study and experience food from my computer? At ACHS, there are a few ways we make studying holistic nutrition online as dynamic and interactive as if you were in a brick-and-mortar classroom:
Accreditation is a process by which educational institutions are evaluated by a third party (an approved accrediting body) to determine if the school meets set educational and business standards. ACHS is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
You might be wondering, who cares if my school is accredited or not? As long as they provide a good program, isn’t that enough? Well… maybe, but maybe not. The accreditation and approvals held by an institution and its programs affect what you can do with your holistic nutrition training, including whether you can use that credential on a resume, gain insurance, or qualify for industry approvals or registration examinations.
As you learn more about the holistic nutrition industry, it’s time to decide what level of program is right for your professional goals. Should you start with a single course? Maybe a certificate program? Or, maybe you’re ready for a master’s level education. Here is a brief breakdown of ACHS’s accredited online nutrition programs according to individual goals:
This program provides an excellent overview of what “holistic nutrition” means and how to legally provide clients with nutrition information. We recommend this program to anyone who wants to get started quickly but who may not be ready to commit to a full bachelor’s program.
In this accredited holistic nutrition program you’ll learn how to legally and successfully operate a nutritional consulting practice and how to create lifestyle plans that support optimal health and wellness including the topics: nutritional biochemistry, acid-alkaline balance, fasting, food combining, transitional daily diet, wheatgrass therapy, sprouting, the body’s structure and function in a healthy state, nutrition research and studies, state regulatory bodies and local and state requirements, and how to set up a business.
This program is an in-depth look at holistic nutrition and meets all the requirements of an undergraduate bachelor of science. It could be a great fit if you’ve already completed some courses and/or already completed your associate’s degree. It can also be a useful adjunct if you’re already working in the healthcare or health and wellness field and want to expand your client services.
In this accredited holistic nutrition degree you’ll get a thorough background in the biological sciences such as anatomy, physiology, psychology, and biology and chemistry (you may be able to transfer credits from courses previously completed in these subjects) and then delve into holistic nutrition philosophy and strategy focused on the whole person—mind, body, spirit. Topics include: introductory and advanced nutrition principles, nutrition across the lifespan, sports nutrition, nutritional supplements, vegetarian and gluten-free diets, food production and healthy cooking, and nutrition coaching and communication skills, among others.
This program provides graduate-level students with specific training in holistic nutrition. Less comprehensive than a degree program, the Graduate Certificate is great way to learn more without making a big commitment, especially if you’re already working in the health and wellness field and want to explore how nutrition can enhance a holistic wellness plan.
In this accredited holistic nutrition program you’ll learn about the body’s structure and function in a healthy state and how to assess how digestion, absorption, and metabolism influence the effective use of macronutrients and micronutrients. You’ll also learn about nutrition for the life stages and how to recognize food / dietary supplement/drug interactions.
Note that this program will not meet the requirements to sit the Board Certification in Holistic Nutrition exam offered by the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board of NANP. If that is your goal, consider the Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition.
This program is focused on how to use holistic nutrition and physical health recommendations to benefit community programs and client education. To achieve this, students delve into advanced applied nutrition principles—including system imbalances, ailments, and individualized holistic nutrition recommendations—with an emphasis on integrating research and coaching skills.
In this accredited holistic nutrition degree you’ll learn the current theories and best practices in holistic nutrition, how to interpret current research and assist with clinical studies, and how to explain appropriate holistic nutrition protocols to clients, consumers, and the public. You’ll also cover the steps to set-up a holistic nutrition business from insurance to marketing to state regulatory bodies.
Note that this degree program does prepare you to sit the Board Certification in Holistic Nutrition exam offered by the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board of NANP.
It’s easy! If you’re ready to apply to an online holistic nutrition program with ACHS, you can start your application here. If you’re interested in starting out with a single holistic nutrition course, start your single course application here.
Still wondering what to expect during the application process? An admissions advisor is happy to speak to you at a time that works for you.
As people become more and more aware of their food choices and food quality, they need reliable, evidence-based information to help them make decisions. Holistic nutrition coaches and consultants are trusted sources to help explain all of the information on the internet to clients and to help clients make choices for their best interests.
The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlet Handbook projects a 15% growth in the employment of dieticians and nutritionists from 2016 to 2026. This is faster than the average for many occupations:
Interest in the role of food and nutrition in promoting health and wellness has increased, particularly as a part of preventative healthcare in medical settings.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Many diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, are associated with obesity. The importance of diet in preventing and treating illnesses is now well known. More dietitians and nutritionists will be needed to provide care for people with these conditions.
Moreover, as the baby-boom generation grows older and looks for ways to stay healthy, there will be more demand for dietetic and nutrition services. In addition, there will be demand for dietitians and nutritionists in grocery stores to help consumers make healthy food choices.
Establishing a presence in industry organizations can be a great way to learn more about holistic nutrition and developing research. It can also be a useful tool to gain insight about, and guidance into the professional paths available to you. Industry organizations are also a great place to meet like-minded individuals, to network, and establish a long-term relationship with a mentor.
National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP)
The NANP is a nonprofit professional business league serving holistic nutrition professionals and the holistic nutrition community. Originally founded in 1985 as the Society of Certified Nutritionists, NANP is dedicated to “furthering the cause, education, and standards of the holistic nutrition industry.”
A great way to get involved with NANP is to attend their annual conference and expo. The conference provides tons of opportunities to meet with other holistic nutrition enthusiasts and professionals face to face, to gain valuable insights into current research and trends, and to network. NANP’s upcoming conferences are here.
If the conference doesn’t work for your schedule or if you want to make a more long-term commitment, NANP also offers membership. When you join NANP, you save on admission to the conference, get a free listing in their online membership directory, can access their Career Center, and subscribe to NANP updates.
Learn more in these blogs about the NANP conference experience:
Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board (HNCB)
The HNCB is the holistic nutrition credentialing body of the NANP. The HNCB offers the Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® exam, which promotes an educated, responsible, and nationally recognized community of holistic nutrition experts. Board certification can be a crucial credential for a holistic nutrition professional depending on state requirements.
Graduating from the following ACHS programs qualifies you to sit the HNCB credentialing exam:
For a full list of Board Exam eligibility requirements, visit the HNCB website here.
American Nutrition Association
The ANA offers up-to-date data on nutrition and dietician practitioner laws and legislation both federal and by state. They’re also committed to health freedom, which allows holistic nutrition professionals to legally and safely practice to the level of their education and expertise, and provide advocacy resources, as well as an overview of health and wellness professions.
As a student looking forward to a career in holistic nutrition, this is a website you should review often. You might even consider getting involved with their cause. Laws and restrictions on holistic nutritionists can be extremely strict in certain states, and the ANA can help you stay on top of the crucial legislation you need to know and take action to ensure health freedom for consumers and practitioners in your state. Learn more here.
Nutrition.gov is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-sponsored website. Although somewhat allopathically oriented, it provides valuable information on healthful eating such as nutrition for the life cycle, nutrition for seniors, MyPlate seasonal resources, nutrition and health issues (e.g., AIDS, cancer, diabetes, eating disorders, food allergies, obesity), and food additives, among others.
So, while nutrition.gov focuses on allopathic nutrition rather than holistic nutrition, it is still a useful resource for students to keep up to date with nutrition trends and research.
NutritionFacts.org is an excellent resource for holistic nutrition students to get quick information and research. This site is devoted to providing credible nutrition-related research and compiles those facts into short, understandable video segments. They also provide links for you to access the original journal articles and studies behind the information you’ve learned in the video.
Here are several free, premium resources to expand your holistic nutrition knowledge even further:
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ACHS Accredited Online Holistic Nutrition Programs
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.
 U.S. Department of Labor. (2018, April 13). Occupational Outlet Handbook: Dieticians and Nutritionists. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm#tab-6
 U.S. Department of Labor. (2018, April 13). Occupational Outlet Handbook: Dieticians and Nutritionists. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm#tab-6